I have a small ask: if we perchance run into one another, please don’t greet me with sympathetic eyes and a sad voice and say “How are you doing?” It’s different than when you do say the normal “How are you DOing?”. The sad version makes me feel weird, as if you are saying “You poor bastard, you look like shit and I want you to know how sorry I am for you”.
Now of course, I don’t know if you or anyone is actually thinking those words when we meet, but it sure feels like it when the words are accompanied with that certain face and voice. Sympathy makes me feel really uncomfortable. I’m not feeling sorry for myself (usually). Confused and unlucky? Absolutely. Missing the lifestyle of work and travel and health I had only a few months ago? Of course. I suppose 58 years of training as a rugged individualist has conditioned me to bristle at being sympathized for. But I’m still operating from an “I’ve got this” mentality, so when I see looks or expressions of sympathy directed at me, it messes with my mojo. I don’t mean to seem ungrateful. The gift of your support has been amazing, healing, restorative and fun. But easy does it on the sympathy.
You can say or do just about anything else, incidentally. A friend in one such chance encounter just the other day said “Holy crap man, you look like shit”! I laughed so hard I thought I was going to pee. In a different encounter at the grocery store, I ran into a friend and his 4 year old son. The boy was tracking our conversation better than I thought. He asked “what’s WRONG with you?” I laughed and said “They are giving me medicine that makes me look like my thumb, see?” – and I held up my thumb and we both laughed.
“Bad is bad” is what I am learning and comparisons of whose Bad is worse are meaningless. Sure, going through cancer treatment again is bad compared to the privileged existence of my life, but I can think of a LOT of things that would be as bad, or worse. Just a few weeks ago, two colleagues whose love story parallels our own were walking together when one of them unexpectedly fell down, had a heart attack and died. His Love apparently gave him CPR to no avail. He was Moe’s age. I can only imagine how I would feel if that happened to Moe. But I haven’t felt that kind of bad yet, so my Bad will have to do, just like whatever tragedy or adversity has befallen you that you feel defines your Bad. I don’t need to know my Bad looks much worse to you than your Bad, but it is helpful to know you have felt bad before and you can empathize with me. That feels awesome, actually.
And incidentally, I think the same thing applies to good. Good is good, and your version of Good doesn’t have to outshine mine, or vice versa. The point is, have you felt joy, and love, and affection, and other positive emotions. I have, and you are part of them.